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Spotlight Interview

Guest Contributor:

Denise L. Passero, AAS, BPS, MA

Certified Aromatherapist

Young Living Essential Oil Distributor


In the interest of full disclosure and full transparency, I am running a business surrounding essential oils, supplements, and other wellness and lifestyle products. I am a network marketer and I have partnered with Young Living to promote the use of these products, with the hope to also improve people’s financial well-being.

I believe that one of the sources of mental distress is related to finances or the lack thereof. I started my business because I wanted to pursue natural wellness for my family, but also take control of my own financial well-being. I know there may be other black men and women who think like I did – that financial well-being is only for white people. Well, I do not believe that any longer and nothing would please me more than to empower the black community to take control of their own financial well-being. I would love to see black mamas and daddy’s have the freedom to be able to spend more time with their kids, help them with school, and stop the cycle of poverty. I know financial struggles can lead to depression, anxiety, and feelings of defeat.

I am promoting myself as a businesswoman and I am looking for people to lock arms with, in the wellness business. If this does not bother you, then I hope my responses in my spotlight interview will be helpful.

Personal Thoughts

Mental wellness is for everyone. Practitioners also need support as they assist others. Aromatherapy can help practitioners to maintain emotional equilibrium as they listen to the struggles of others. Diffusing essential oils during a session may help clients to relax, calm down, and open up and share things they might not otherwise share. It may help them to be more receptive to advice and more inclined to listen. It may also protect the practitioner from negative emotions. So, I try to look at mental wellness from both sides of the proverbial couch.


Tell us about your educational and/or professional training, and current area of expertise related to mental health and wellness?

My education is in the field of business and technology. I have a master’s degree in Business Policy Studies with a concentration in Information Technology. I began my own wellness journey about 8 years ago and developed an interest in using plant-based solutions including aromatherapy to help me reach my wellness goals. This led me to pursue certifications in aromatherapy including French Medicinal Aromatherapy, Clinical Aromatherapy and I am currently studying for an additional certification in Aromatic medicine.

What are some ways that you promote mental health and wellness through your area of expertise?

I promote mental wellness by encouraging the use of herbs and essential oils to support emotional and mental wellness. Essential oils can have a very powerful effect on the mind for both the counselor and the client. Aromatherapy is not a replacement for professional counseling, but it has the potential to work with counseling if used during a session and in daily life, along with other lifestyle changes.

What are some things that we should know about your area of expertise?

I am not a medical or mental health professional, but my area of expertise allows me to provide education to those who are interested in natural methods to support their physical, mental, and emotional wellness.

What does Black Mental Wellness mean to you?

This is an interesting question. Wellness in general is not the absence of illness. It is the sum of all the things a person does to create wellness in the body and the mind. It is not just about getting professional counseling (although this is very important). It includes all changes a person makes to create wellness – diet and nutrition, exercise, sleeping well, and surrounding yourself with people who bring out the best in you, and help you be your best self. Essential oils can be part of all of the things a person does to create wellness since they can reduce stress and anxiety, help a person lean into gratitude, help a person focus, and even help a person release and let go of things that may be getting in the way of mental wellness.

What can potential clients expect when working with you?

My focus is on education and awareness. I teach people about the power of plants to support healing and how to use essential oils and plant-based supplements to meet these goals. The reader or listener then has to choose how they will use that information.

Do you have an experience with seeking mental health treatment that you would like to share with the Black Mental Wellness audience?

I actually do not have experience in seeking mental health treatment myself. It is not to say I have never felt sad or depressed or anxious. It is just that I have managed to find ways to pull myself out of it. I actually turned to aromatherapy at a time in my life when I was feeling depressed about certain things, but I also do not believe I was clinically depressed to a point where it could not be overcome.

How do you promote change and well-being in the Black community?

My goal is to educate people who want to include essential oils and plant-based supplements in their efforts to create physical and mental wellness. I was brought up using body care products that were laden with toxic chemicals, dyes, chemical fragrances, and other ingredients that have the potential to threaten the physical and mental health of all people, but especially black people. I used relaxers in my hair to straighten it so that I could look like I had “good hair.” I cannot help but wonder about the connection between the use of these products on our kids and the high incidence of behavioral issues in children. I would love to see woman and especially black mamas avoid chemicals on themselves and on their children, and learn to love their natural locks and accept their natural beauty as black women. I learned to use plant-based products to care for my own skin and hair. I even made my own hair pomade using essential oils and to keep my hair healthy.

What are some upcoming events you are leading, that promote mental health and wellness, that you would like for our Black Mental Wellness audience to know about?

Well I just published an event on my Facebook business page entitled, “Are You Getting Enough Sleep?” Lack of sleep is a HUGE problem and can contribute to depression and anxiety. I want to teach people how to use essential oils to promote more restful and restorative sleep. Will this end all of your problems? Of course not. However, sleeping well may enable a person to focus on the solutions to those problems more effectively AND feel more positive that the solutions exist. Participating in this spotlight interview has actually inspired me and I have a couple of ideas for events that I can do to target the black community and promote mental health and wellness.

How can we encourage more people to seek mental health treatment?

To be honest, I am not 100% sure. But as I sit here thinking about the answer, I have known people who had the idea that seeing mental health treatment might mean that they do not trust God. If people could get past that idea, they might be more inclined to get treatment if it is called for. Even as an aromatherapist, when I see people posting about feeling depressed for one reason or another and not being able to get over it, my first question is, “have you considered counseling?” I work within the framework of my own area of expertise and I believe that it may take many modalities for a person to reach their wellness goals. That includes getting mental health treatment if you need it.

What are your recommendations for ending stigma in the Black community?

My recommendation is more of a question. I may answer this question by sharing a bit of my own personal story. I used to see natural health as a thing white people did. When I heard about eating yogurt or whole grains or being a vegetarian (which I am not), I used to say to myself, “must be from California.” Or “this nonsense is for white people.” I said that until I tried it myself. Natural wellness is not just for Californians or white people. It is for everyone. Why did I think it was for white people? Because I did not know black people who pursued natural wellness methods. Well what if that could change? What if I knew more black people used plant-based modalities as part of their own wellness routines? The same question needs to be raised for ending the stigma of mental health stigma in the black community. What if members of the black community knew other blacks who sought treatment for mental health? What if they could stop seeing it as a white people thing? What if the media and the advertising industry showed more commercials featuring black people getting mental health treatment? What if they showed more black people of modest means getting this help? Might that change the idea among blacks that seeking mental health treatment is not just a white people thing or a sign of weakness?

What wellness strategies do you think should be given more attention within the Black community? Are there any reasons why you think they are not given more attention?

Oh my goodness. Do not get me started! Clean eating, eating less processed foods, cooking more whole foods from scratch at home, having access to and eating more organic foods, exercising regularly, supporting conventional medical modalities with natural health strategies, and even regularly going to the dentist and keeping up with annual checkups,

Why are these things not given more attention? Currently, I was made aware of the fact that internet resources related to natural health and wellness are being censored. On social media, posts and resources with the word wellness or natural health are getting less traction. I don’t know the reason for this unless it is because of a trend to turn to more natural methods of healing the mind and body and to redirect people back to big pharma. I would love it if the medical community and the natural health community could work side by side and realize that they do not have to be enemies. I personally never discourage anyone from seeking medical attention or mental health treatment. Even in a clinical consultation, it would be my responsibility to ask if the person is seeing a doctor for their condition, what meds they may be on, and what the diagnosis is that they have so that I do not interfere with their doctor’s recommendations when I suggest a herb or essential oil or a supplement. I believe there is a place for natural wellness strategies and conventional medicine.

How do you make time for your own wellness and self-care?

Self-care is part of my daily routine. I have eliminated toxic body care products and housecleaning products from my home. I overcame my own insomnia using essential oils and herbs. I use hair care and skin care products infused with essential oils daily. I see a massage therapist once a month and a chiropractor whenever I need it. I work out at least 4 or 5 times a week. I seek out alone time so that I can be alone with my own thoughts and just decompress. These things are priorities for me because without them, I cannot do the other things I need to do.

What are your top 5 favorite wellness and self-care strategies?

  1. Surround myself with people who encourage me and I can encourage them. Keeping toxic people at a healthy distance.

  2. Regular massage therapy.

  3. Maintaining spiritual health and well-being.

  4. Maintaining gut health which is linked to mental health.

  5. Regular exercise.

What resources do you find most helpful to encourage mental health and wellness?

I read a lot. I listen to natural remedy lectures often. I purchase materials that educate me on how natural methods support physical, mental and emotional wellness. Just a few of the books I have in my personal library:

  • “The Fragrant Mind – Aromatherapy for Personality, Mind, Mood, and Emotion” by Valerie Ann Worwood.

  • “13 Things that Mentally Strong People Don’t Do” by Amy Morin

  • “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo

  • “Releasing Emotional Patterns with Essential Oils” by Carolyn L. Mein, D.C.

Guest Contributor

Denise L. Passero, AAS, BPS, MA is from upstate NY and currently works for a small community college in the Information Technology field. She has worked in this field for over 20 years and will be retiring soon.

She has both a Level 1 and a Level 2 certification in Aromatherapy from the New York Institute of Aromatic Studies and is currently completing a certification for Aromatic medicine from this same school. She is the owner of Mohawk Valley Essential Solutions ( and is qualified to provide education in the use of aromatic plants to support wellness goals. She has expertise in the use of herbalism as a component of an overall wellness lifestyle. She has partnered with Young Living Essential oils to encourage and educate people on the use of plants for creating and maintaining wellness on multiple levels. Her goal is to retire in a little over a year and continue her efforts to show people how essential oils and herbs can become part of their regular routine of health and wellness.

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